The plane landed, each row of passengers stood, grabbed their roll-aboards, and headed onto the next segment of their life. Lucky for me, there was a ladies room right at the gate. Not a fan of airplane lavatories, I’m happy to find one close to the gate. I zipped in, sent the 16 ounces of water I’d had back into the world, zipped up, washed my hands, and headed for the exit. Not so fast.
There was a tablet embedded in the wall, flashing. It was impossible not to look. There were five emojis, from frowney to smiley, asking me to “rate my bathroom experience.”
I ignored it, and a few minutes later, I received a text, asking me to rate the bathroom experience because I “forgot” to do so when I left the bathroom. No, I didn’t forget—I’m not touching some public screen in a bathroom. As my mom used to say, “You don’t know where it’s been.”
I do not see myself as the dispenser of emoticons, from bathrooms to restaurants to valet parking. Not every action and experience needs a grade. Clicking on stars to evaluate is not really anything more than saying “I noticed.” Supposing I give the bathroom a 1 (low). What does that mean? Was the space dirty? Was I irritated I had to wait? Was there toilet paper? There is no improvement possible if all you see is a scowling emoji.
I understand the need for opinions, and I understand the need to ignore them. Not every suggestion is important or valuable–many of them encourage people pleasing rather than real improvement.
When I was writing my course on getting along with difficult people, I spoke with many class participants, instructors, developers of workbooks. Many helpful suggestions came my way, some of which are saved for other books. But there were also suggestions that don’t work (“Some people just need to be throat-punched”) and can be ignored.
Social media has made us eager for approval, “likes,” and clappy-hand emojis. Anything less than best and we feel disappointed. Or worse, misunderstood and isolated.
Critical thinking is still important. And so is judgement. It’s hard not to yearn for approval, but if that is all we care about, we won’t go far.
—Quinn McDonald is a training developer and trainer who teaches writing, creative problem solving and getting along with difficult people.